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WUGA-TV Features Public Health Leadership

September 3, 2013

Originally published Dec. 19, 2011

The University of Georgia’s Public Health Impact TV recently filmed a two-part series about public health in the state of Georgia and the creation of the new Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). The series features interviews with Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and District 2 Health Director David Westfall, M.D.

During her interview, Commissioner Fitzgerald discussed the functions of public health and how the Department works to protect the lives of the people of Georgia through everything from disaster response to immunization programs to restaurant inspections.

Commissioner Fitzgerald was asked to describe the benefits of DPH being its own department. “We are more flexible now, more agile,” said Commissioner Fitzgerald. “Public health has to respond quickly and being in the super agency was a little bit prohibitive in that manner. We will be more efficient and effective as our own department.”

“In the super agency,” Commissioner Fitzgerald explained, “Public Health was not able to do as much as we can do. My goals are to make sure that Public Health realizes its full potential. There are some wonderful people here and I think we are going to do great things.”

Commissioner Fitzgerald also talked about the ongoing collaborations between DPH and the Department of Community Health on initiatives such as infant mortality, and explained the governmental structure of DPH including who makes up the Board of Health.

Public Health TV asked District 2 Health Director David Westfall, M.D., to describe the value of DPH being a new, standalone department. Dr. Westfall began by explaining how departmental status better positions public health to improve its standing in national health rankings.

“The fact that we have now decided to have a separate department of public health focuses on the importance of health to the people of Georgia,” explained Dr. Westfall. “It also gives us more of a direct ear to the governor in that the commissioner reports to him. It also allows the governor to be actively involved in promoting health to the state.”

Dr. Westfall also described how he believes the operations at the district level will be impacted by DPH being its own department. He explained that the districts’ management of public health in the counties will remain unchanged, but that the creation of DPH will allow for support of what is done at the district level.

“We know that we have a strong advocate now in Atlanta and with the governor,” explained Dr. Westfall. “[DPH] can advocate for additional funding when we need it and we can be sure that the technical assistance that we get from the Department of Public Health at the state level is correct and of a good quality.”

The first of two episodes featuring Commissioner Fitzgerald and Dr. Westfall will air on WUGA-TV in the Athens area on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. and again Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. You can also watch it on the DPH YouTube channel.